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Learning to float on the tides of life

I am always amazed by the shifting sands of life. We can be moving along, fairly content, assuming we’re on an even course, when out of nowhere something we hadn’t even glimpsed in our rearview mirror sends us into a tailspin. And conversely, we can be struggling, or just muddling through when just as suddenly some shooting star streaks across our night sky and reminds us that there are miracles all around us. Every day. If our eyes are open. Read more

Truth. Trust. Surrender. No white flag necessary.

We interrupt our regularly scheduled program — the “Pray, Love, Then Eat” blog tour for Cravings — to get back to a good, old-fashioned spirituality post.

Last year at this time, I posted about choosing a word for the year, or, more accurately, allowing my word to choose me: “Listen.” Back then I was having a hard time imagining I’d find one word to define the coming months. This year I’m finding not just one but a series of words that have taken up residence in my heart and soul. It started a few months back and has been picking up steam. It started like this… Read more

Learning to let God be God

“God is not God the way we would be God if we were God,” said Bishop Edward Braxton of Belleville, Illinois, at yesterday’s Mass for U.S. bishops in Baltimore.

In a wide-ranging homily that covered many topics relevant to the day and our culture, especially in light of the divisiveness evident during the run-up to the recent presidential elections, these particular words stuck in my head. I kept hearing them over and over. Read more

The space between fear and trust

This morning I returned to my beloved early morning yoga class after a very long hiatus due to a physical condition/injury. I won’t bore you with details. Suffice to say, I had and will have for the rest of my life a situation that prevents me from fully doing yoga the way I like to do it.

I was supposed to be starting 200-hour yoga teacher training this month. Instead, my favorite yoga teacher is recommending I learn to be satisfied with taking classes in “chair yoga” and “water yoga.” I’m not good at being satisfied with what I view as “less than,” but perhaps therein lies the lesson. Another thing I really don’t want to hear. Read more

I’ll cross that bridge…

I have a bunch of projects in the works right now that, well, to be perfectly honest, scare the crap out of me. We’re all friends here. I can be honest, right?

Although I can’t say much about anything right now, I’ll tell you this: Every single new work-related thing staring me in the face is going to push me farther and farther out of my comfort zone. And, just to be clear, my comfort zone is the corner of my basement, where I can remain an invisible entity who quietly — and sometimes not so quietly — writes all alone, save for the company of my two cats.

I am perfectly content to be faceless. I don’t need a giant following. I don’t want to get into online arguments with rabid fans. I just want to be. But apparently that’s not what God has planned for me.

Why do I think it’s God behind all this and not my own selfish desires? Because I have had nothing to do with anything that has come my way. I have been minding my own business, going about my mostly anonymous writing, but every week, it seems, I get another email asking me to be part of something I never would have considered for myself. I keep asking, “Is this where I’m supposed to be going?” I guess I’ll never know for sure, but all I know is that I didn’t choose the course. It’s not like I’m sitting here with a Ouija board pushing that little wooden indicator thingamabob toward the answers I want. (Please refrain from writing to me about the dangers and sinfulness of using a Ouija board. I don’t actually own a Ouija board. The image was for effect, but now it’s ruined.)

I keep telling Dennis I just want to disappear, become a hermit. At almost 50 years old, that seems like the more logical path for me. Imagine a little hermit cave at the end of that bridge path in the photo above. I can see myself there quite easily. But, no, that’s not where that little bridge is leading. The other side of my bridge will be filled with traffic and long car rides and occasional plane or train rides, but definitely no cave. And I’m a little panicked over that. Part of me knows I can’t pass up the opportunities, and the other part of me wonders, as I always do when I find myself in this place, why not go get a little job at Hewitt’s garden center? Because that’s not where God keeps pushing me to be, although it’s definitely my Plan B.

For now I’m trying to take it one day at a time and not let things that are weeks or months away destroy my peace today. But I’m not very good at living in the moment. I like living in a moment at least two months, maybe two years down the road. “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it” has never been my motto. I like to cross the bridge at least 50 or 60 times a day in my mind so that I’ll be ready when the real bridge is finally in front of me. You can imagine how tiring it gets crossing bridges all day long.

I’ll keep you posted as things progress, but, for now, if you have a minute and a prayer to spare, please put in a good word for me, that I cross the right bridge at the right time, especially if it’s during rush hour.

Embracing the daring adventure called life

My oldest godchild is about to embark on a life-changing journey, moving away from the town he has known his whole life to a new place with none of the safety nets home often provides. I remember when I did the same almost 25 years ago, leaving my reporting job at Catholic New York to drive my Chevy Chevette to Austin, Texas. In August. Without air conditioning.

That last fact alone should have been reason enough to call my sanity into question, and yet that move, along with the many life events that came after—both good and not so good— helped shape me into who I am today. Without those Texas years, I’d be different. Maybe not better or worse, but definitely different, a little less whole, a little less who I was meant to be. Read more

An unchanging message: Drive-by lessons in faith

Here’s my post from OSV Daily Take today:

I’m not one for pithy quotes posted on big signs outside churches. I typically find them distracting at best or silly and inane at worst. But when I drove by the local Reform church in my town yesterday, the posted comment hit home:

“You don’t change the message; the message changes you.”

I found myself giving a little “Amen!” as I turned onto a side street. Sure this sign referred to the general Christian message, but I think it applies even more appropriately to the Catholic message.

We live in a world where everyone tries to change with the times, and too often society thinks the Church should follow suit. We should be more flexible and fluid, more “modern” and adaptive, we hear from sources of every stripe, Catholic and not. And still we attempt to stay true to the message, even when the message is as counter-cultural as it gets, from abortion and embryonic stem cell research to capital punishment and war.

Why don’t we just change the message and take the heat off ? Because our Church knows — we know — precisely what the signage tried to convey in one line. If we keep moving the goal posts, changing the message to suit the times, we don’t move closer to the Kingdom or according to Jesus’ teaching. We move according to our own needs and desires. But, if we allow the message to sink in and to become part of us, even when it’s not easy to accept or practice, slowly but surely the message will, in fact, change us.

In her beautiful book “One Thousand Gifts,” writer Ann Voskamp writes about discovering the fact that living the Christian message means being grateful — counting our blessings — even when the “blessings” are painful or difficult experiences that we don’t want in our lives and can’t understand. That’s some hard teaching, but it’s at the heart of this idea that we can’t change the message. The message is what it is, and it will change us if we let it.

Ann writes:

“Thanksgiving — giving thanks in everything — prepares the way that God might show us His fullest salvation in Christ.

“The act of sacrificing thank offerings to God — even for the bread and cup of cost, for cancer and crucifixion — this prepares the way for God to show us His fullest salvation from bitter, angry, resentful lives and from all sin that estranges us from Him. At the Eucharist, Christ breaks His heart to heal ours — Christ, the complete accomplishment of our salvation. And the miracle of eucharisteo never ends: thanksgiving is what precedes the miracle of that salvation being fully worked out in our lives.”

So the message doesn’t change. The message can’t change. Not if we hope to be changed by it, to be made new in Christ. His message must be our message.

That’s a pretty powerful faith lesson for a little church sign on a hot May morning. I hope I remember it, not only in good times but in the bad times that are an inevitable part of life. Thanksgiving, Eucharist — an unchanging, life-changing message.

‘Every day is a gift.’ Do we believe that?

My latest “Life Lines” column is now up at Catholic New York. I’ll start you off here:

When I went to my local YMCA this week, I ran into a man from my parish, a deacon who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. His wife recently insisted on a Y membership for him in hopes that the physical exercise would help his mental state, but he is quick to admit that his memory is fading fast.

A deacon for 30 years, he can no longer assist at Mass without a cheat sheet. At home, if his wife asks him to get something from upstairs, he has to write it down. Although he keeps his mind active by reading and doing crossword puzzles, he knows that this is just the beginning of what is likely to be a long decline into a place none of us wants to imagine we might go, a place where we can’t find our way home, don’t know our own child’s name.

And yet, as we stood talking, this man was smiling and complimenting the trainers at the gym for being willing to re-train him every time he comes in since he can’t remember their instructions from one day to the next. He talked about the seniors he visits at a local nursing home, and praised his wife for being his “angel.” Not one negative word came out of his mouth; no fear or self-pity flickered in his eyes.

As our conversation wrapped up, he smiled at me and said, “God is good.” I walked away amazed at the way some people are able to meet life’s greatest challenges with grace and trust. Instead of asking, “Why me?” people like this understand at their core that the real question is “Why not me?”

Continue reading HERE.